Good cop, bad cop: federal prosecution of state-legalized medical marijuana use after United States v. Lopez

A E Newbern
California Law Review 2000, 88 (5): 1575-634
The Supreme Court's recent decisions in United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison articulate a vision of federalism under which Congress's regulatory authority under the Commerce Clause is severely limited in favor of returning traditional areas of state concern, particularly criminal law enforcement, to local or state control. The Court's decisions in these cases coincide with ballot initiatives legalizing the medical use of marijuana garnering a majority of the vote in California, Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Maine, and Washington D.C. Those who use marijuana for medical purposes under sanction of state law, however, still face the threat of federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. Medical marijuana proponents have traditionally, and unsuccessfully, contested federal prosecution using individual rights arguments under theories of equal protection or substantive due process. This Comment argues that after Lopez and Morrison, the federal government's authority to regulate intrastate use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is not the foregone conclusion it once was. The author suggests that proponents of medical marijuana use should invoke the federalism arguments of Lopez and Morrison and argue for state legislative independence from the federal government on this issue.


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